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My name is Cara and I am a book lover through and through! I do all things books at Appleseed Bookshop. I read, review, blog and am a published alt model. I also review for We Love This Book, Things and Ink and Starburst Magazine. Contact me if you would like a proof read and reviewed at thetattooedbook@yahoo.co.uk or follow me on twitter at twitter.com/thetattooedbook

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Dynamite Room by Jason Hewitt

The Dynamite Room


It's summer 1940 and Lydia has run away from her refugee home and the bullies that reside there to return to the security of her mother's arms. After avoiding strangers and stowing away on a train, she's made it back to her small, familiar Suffolk village. Something is wrong though, something is very wrong. The streets are deserted, there's no one behind the counters of the village shops and not a friendly face in sight. Worst of all, after knocking on the door of her house, no one answers. She finds the spare key that's hidden in the garden, wanders the deserted house and then hides herself away in the loft. Alone, scared and with no idea what to do.

Before long she hears a person moving within the house and she knows by their footsteps that it's not one of her family. The trespasser tries to get into the loft, she holds her breath but her barricade holds tight. The intruder gives in and seems to leave.

Hours later Lydia works up the courage to check the house and she creeps down from the loft, through the house and downstairs to find a stranger in her home. He's a soldier, obviously wounded and as he pulls a gun on her she thinks her time is up. But as he lowers the weapon his choice is made, they will have to learn to survive together. But who is he and how does he know Lydia's name?

From the first few pages you're drawn into Lydia's world as she walks her villages abandoned streets. This creates an intense tension and you instantly warm to the plucky young girl as she journeys her way home (the ghost village is also explained at the end of the novel). The dynamic between the two housemates ranges from tense and violent to caring and tender. Lydia is the one to mentally broach the situation of a grown man living with an 11 year old girl that isn't his daughter and Jason Hewitt handles this minefield of a situation perfectly. Lydia struggles to know how to act around this man, should she be a child and play daughter or try to be a woman and play wife, which will make him happier and more likely to help her find her mother?

There are numerous war novels being published at the moment but this has been my favourite so far. The two characters are just fabulous and the secret behind their connection is intelligent, unusual and utterly captivating. The Dynamite Room is one of those rare gems that leaves you heartbroken by ending but desperate to turn back to the first page and start all over again.



To buy The Dynamite Room by Jason Hewitt click here.










 

 



Thursday, 10 April 2014

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

Frog Music




Blanche, her boyfriend Arthur and his best friend Ernest travelled from their French home to San Fransisco to seek a new life. The men's careers as a high flying circus act was ended when Arthur fell badly and hurt his back. In San Francisco the men enjoy the dandy life of clothes, jewellry, gambling and smoking and Blanche pays for it all by dancing burlesque and selling herself to her richest admirers.

During the 1876 heatwave she's knocked down in the street by a woman dress as a man and riding a penny-farthing. She's caught off guard by this unique woman who introduces herself as Jenny and although she should be infuriated at her attitude, she instantly warms to her. They return to Blanche's home and Jenny asks a few simple questions that change her life forever.

A few weeks later Jenny and Blanche are staying on the outskirts of town, drinking, catching frogs and becoming closer than ever. But one night as Blanche bends over, a gunshot rings out over her head and Jenny is shot dead. But who could have done it, who knew where they were and who had the most to gain from this unique woman's death? Blanche is desperate for the truth and as she tries to discover it, she realises that she hardly knew her best friend Jenny at all.

Based on true events, Frog Music is an interesting tale of friendship, murder, sex and parenthood. Both Blanche and Jenny are unusual female leads in very different ways. Blanche is a dancer and high class prostitute, unashamedly addicted to sex and attention. When shocked and guilted into the care of her one year old son you also see her as a vulnerable woman, an unnatural mother but one who's trying. Jenny's a feisty and inquisitive woman, challenging the system by wearing 'mens' clothes and going to prison for her beliefs. You warm to her instantly and the secrets Blanche reveal after her death are just heartbreaking. Meanwhile, the males in this novel are all gutless tyrants and waste men, feeding off women and letting them down in one way or another.

This may not be a fast paced, action packed story but there really is something about it that draws you in and keeps you reading for as long as possible. The fascinating period of time and colourful characters weave together superbly and a sprinkling of French language and traditional music make the tale unique and memorable. Vivid descriptions of smallpox and it's effects leaving your skin crawling and insights into a baby farm are utterly galling. Parts are occasionally sexually explicit but there's something about the styling that never makes it feel cringy or unnecessary. Overall I loved Frog Music and have rather started to miss Blanche already.





To buy Frog Music by Emma Donoghue click here.





 

 











Long Way Home by Eva Dolan

Long Way Home



When Zigic is called out to a home near central Peterborough he's faced with the remains of a burnt down shed with a charred corpse inside. The home owners play dumb, insisting they never even noticed the shed beneath their bedroom window had burnt to the ground. Strange then that their neighbour had noticed, called the police and yet still not managed to get the home owners to answer the door. So who's the man in the shed and why are the couple acting so shifty?

Outside of town and further into the countryside, Paulo reminisces about the love of his life back home, the woman he left to seek his fortune so they could live a better life together. But his memories of her are fading, as are his hopes of ever getting paid and being treated like a human being and not an animal. He knows it's wrong and when he sees up close the treatment of an injured worker, his shock and fear cause him to speak out, placing a target on his own chest.

Long Way Home features some fabulous characters and Eva Dolan has an incredible gift for creating vivid, passionate parts that are 100% believable. Using the Peterborough Police Hate Crime Unit as her starting point, she introduces policemen and woman that you can instantly imagine on screen and I could see this novel being adapted very well. What really makes this crime novel stand out is how Dolan has captured the tentions of the mixed race city and the pure desperation of some of the immigrants it contains. Their hopes and dreams of a future, quashed and strong, independent men and woman repressed and taken advantage of until they feel they have nothing left. This unique and evocative path for a crime novel not only makes it gripping but also very moving. I thoroughly enjoyed The Long Way Home and I'll definitely be grabbing up the second in the Zigic and Ferreira series.





To buy Long Way Home by Eva Dolan click here.















 

 






Thursday, 3 April 2014

All The Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

All the Birds, Singing


Jake Whyte has lived a hard life, fleeing Australia and now running her own sheep farm on a rural British island. She keeps herself to herself and avoids the locals but this just makes them all the more intrigued by the young Australian woman.

As her sheep start to turn up dead and her feelings of being watched increase, she stumbles across a man sleeping in one of her sheds. In a brief moment of compassion she covers him with a blanket and lets him stay there. He helps her the next day on the farm and soon he's the nearest thing to a friend she has. But who's killing the sheep and are her secrets really left behind in Australia?


Your introduction to Jake at the beginning of this novel is of an incredibly strong woman under immense stress, running from something and committed to being alone for her own safety. Before any descriptions, an age or background, you are thrown headfirst into the claustrophobia and tension that rule her life. This unusual style had me hooked from the very first page.

The story then alternates between her modern day life on the farm and her past in Australia. The chapters based in Australia outline a life of desperation and abuse but Wyld still manages to touch it with occasional humour without it feeling misplaced. Jake is also a great female lead you cannot help but warm to the more you learn about her past.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly why this novel is so haunting and why I've continued to reminisce about it but I guess that's just one of the signs of a great read. A story of a single mistake, All The Birds, Singing is an incredible novel that is beautifully constructed, instantly addictive and perfectly paced.



To buy All The Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld click here.






 

 


 













Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry



A.J. Fikry's life is in tatters, the bookshop he opened with his wife is failing and her untimely death after a tragic car crash has left him numb with grief. Then one morning after drunkenly pawing his incredibly rare and valuable Edgar Allen Poe novel, he wakes to find it gone. After rushing to report the book stolen he returns to the store dejected and depressed only to hear a strange noise in the shop. Alone in the children's section, Fikry discovers a little girl with her nose in a book. A note left by the child's mother explains she can't care for the little girl any more and how she wanted the girl to grow up surrounded by books.

Back at the police station Fikry is about to hand over the little girl until he's told that she'll have to stay at the police station over the weekend until child services can come and get her. Realising he's quite enjoyed the clever little girls company he insists on keeping her for the weekend, especially as it was her mother's wishes and as time passes the little girl, Maya and Fikry become more than lost souls, they become family.


The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry is a little gem of a novel and is likely to touch a soft spot in every bookseller or publicist's heart, with a baby seat made out of proofs (or galleys) to absolutely nailing the classic 'grump bookseller' with their very specific hates. This novel will not only appeal to people involved in the book industry but also has all the ingredients to capture anyone's heart. Fikry is stubborn and old before his time but softens with the witty bookworm that is Maya. The secondary characters in the policeman and Fikry's sister-in-law also add another layer to the story to make it even more enjoyable. It's a heartwarming novel with hints of The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry but with such a hugely positive start to the novel you know there has to be some sadness brewing. My only wish is that the ending was a bit longer, it's a short novel and the climax to it felt quite sudden but that could possibly be a deliberate way to increase it's impact. Overall The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry was a joy to read.


To buy The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin click here.









 

 


 





Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings



Living in the Deep South as the middle daughter in a prosperous and well respected family, Sarah is used to the slaves her parents keep and was exposed to their punishments far too early in life. But when she's give Handful, a ten year old slave girl for her eleventh Birthday she instantly knows how wrong the situation is and refuses to accept her in front of friends and family, much to the anger of her mother. Sarah is given as little choice as Handful in the situation and even her attempts to free her are quashed. Although their relationship starts awkwardly they soon become close. As children they are friends but soon the realities of their places in society puts a wedge between them.

Charlotte grows into a woman full of strong beliefs but as a woman she's cursed with the inability to achieve or be heard. She stumbles through beliefs and religions until she eventually discovers her true path. Handful grows up to have similarly strong beliefs with even less ability to act on them but as time passes these two incredible women will do anything they can to make their voices heard.


This story of two womens struggle for a voice is a powerful mix of heartbreaking and empowering. While Charlotte was a real-life campaigner for the freedom of slaves, Handful is a purely fictional character. The story itself is an engrossing piece of fiction, the author notes at the end of the novel packs an extra punch when you realise how much of this tale is based on true events. As the story alternates chapter to chapter between Handful and Charlotte it's both the repression of women and slaves that is discussed. The physical and mental torture of the slaves is shameful and gruelling to read but important to remember and Handful and her mother are truly unforgettable characters. Sue Monk Kidd tackles an evocative subject with great care, detail and passion which makes for a novel that is beautifully moving.







To buy The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd from click here.





 

 


 



Friday, 28 February 2014

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box



Malorie stands in the house that was once her refuge, there's a thick fog outside and this could create their first real chance to escape. She remembers the day she drove to the house, fleeing the 'thing' that had forced her sister to take her own life in their shared flat. This house now holds similar memories and grizzly dark marks still stain the floor and walls, making sure she never forgets. But today she must grab her chance, she rushes to the children, Boy and Girl, wakes them from their slumber and tells them to follow her every order.  In the harsh world they were born into they are used to taking commands, used to waking with their eyes closed, staying silent and listening. Malorie packs what little essentials they have, makes sure the childrens blindfolds are secured and then covers her own eyes before they leave the house. They must make the journey by touch, smell and hearing alone, vision is too risky, if they see the 'creatures' that walk the streets then they will be the last things they ever see.


Bird Box is one of the most gripping books you will ever read, you won't want to put it down for food, water or sleep. There's no slowly lulling you into the world of the 'creatures', you're hooked from the first page. Taking away the sense of sight in this intense storyline is an incredible way to rack up the tension and claustrophobia to nail biting levels. Malorie is also a brilliantly crafted character, forced into being a tough, fiercely independent lady but for half of the novel she's pregnant, adding a vulnerability to her that makes her more realistic and endearing. I did hear a warning that this book wasn't one for pregnant ladies and I can see why, the birth scene is pretty horrific, which is great for horror lovers but maybe not so much for ladies about to go through it themselves (although hopefully with less monsters). For anyone that loves their fiction dark, tense and disturbing then this is your must-read book of the year so far.





To buy Bird Box by Josh Malerman from Amazon click here.